Some years ago, watching my junior high son play league basketball, another parent, a mother, engaged me in pleasant conversation. She pointed to her son in the ongoing game, and I reciprocated; we exchanged compliments about both children, and continued chatting.
After many minutes and exchanges, she popped an unusual question: “I’m Christian, what are you?”
“I’m Human, what are you,” I shot back in return.
She managed a smile in her dumbfounded state, and I turned to the game. We did not speak any more after this rather loaded exchange.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had to field such a question that attempted to “classify” us as I saw it. All because of Aristotle and his classification of living things, perhaps, and his ideas on prime movers as forces in nature that influenced all sorts of theological derivations. But I digress…no, this isn’t the first time I’ve been asked to classify myself. It was in the completion of an enrollment form for a largely professional company in India that I’d been asked to disclose my religion – two and a half decades ago. I responded with “Human” there as well…comforting that nothing much has changed in me since then.
To the topic at hand. We are, one and all, HUMAN. Not white, yellow, red, brown, black, or green/blue from Mars/Venus. Not Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Zoroastrian, Heathen, Pagan… We have all evolved from Humanity originating, per much fossil and genetic evidence, from the heart of Africa. I am an African. So are you. And you. And everyone else. And – we are all connected, through blood, through biology, through nature, to all life. Don’t believe me? Please – look through research in video documentary form – The Journey of Man.
So why did this thought pop up again? I am disturbed by the regular use, by those with genuine grievances, of the term “People of color.” It is offensive, and rather unhelpful. Why do people pit themselves against others by such classification? It smacks of a group or mob mentality. Hey – look at us – we are people of COLOR. Red, Brown, Yellow, and we are all different from you, White. You have NO color. You are NOT like us. See what I mean?
Such references are divisive. They perpetuate differences amongst ourselves. There is no denying that human failings bring in the influence of such differences in how we deal with each other. And that government systems, run by humans, with their known failings, may be unfair in spirit toward those viewed differently. Yes, minorities in America may find such treatment their lot. And yes, we must highlight such injustice…but we must also build bridges at the same time. We do not improve relationships by differentiating ourselves, by divisive classification. This is not the path toward a new Civil Rights advancement. Such distinction only perpetuates inter-group friction, distrust, and continued violence.
I too am guilty of highlighting some differences, in Humbling and Humility, even apologizing for references to ethnicity in places. I too have pointed out significant differences in this difficult journey of life – but those are human differences, distinctions of character and culture, common throughout the world. And I have not, and will not, refer to our suffering as that of “people of color.” I do declare that such references, as in the Open Letter from the Howard University School of Law, are divisive, not inclusive; we must shed them as we march on toward the justice sought.